MLK Teach-In Week: A Continuation of Civil Rights History at Catholic University

Image courtesy of Stephen Somerstein

By Tess Rempel

The Catholic University of America honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on January 25 with the commencement of the first-ever MLK Teach-In Week, which was held in place of the university’s traditional Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The teach-in was held from January 25 to January 31. 

The inaugural MLK Teach-In began with the “Being an Ally” workshop on Tuesday, January 26, where social justice educator and President of RBL Theory Resa Lovelace discussed the progression from being an ally to an accomplice. 

“Resa Lovelace, who led the allyship training, had a profound effect on students and all in attendance,” said CUA Democrats President Regina Brennan. “She presented things in a digestible way that was honest, and she provided scenarios and solutions for dismantling bias and prejudice in our everyday lives.”

Following the workshop was the panel discussion “Race and the Church in the Americas,” held on Wednesday, January 27, and led by the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Scranton Dr. Michelle Gonzales Maldonado. Maldonado holds a Ph.D. in Systematic and Philosophical Theology and has also earned degrees from Smith College, Yale University, and Boston College.

The teach-in notably featured this year’s keynote speaker, TED Talk speaker and Flikshop CEO Marcus Bullock, who virtually presented to over 115 members of the Catholic University community. Bullock was sentenced to eight years in a maximum adult security prison for carjacking when he was only fifteen years old. After being released, he created Flikshop, an organization that provides communication through photos between incarcerated people and their loved ones.

Black Student Alliance (BSA) Vice President Kelly Woodson interviewed Bullock, in addition to screening audience questions.

“When we lead with love and learn to empathize and have enough self awareness… we begin to heal all the hurt,” Bullock said during the interview.

The teach-in also featured a panel hosted on Thursday, January 28, called “Advocacy in Action,” which explored the relationship between the Catholic Church and racism, as hosted by the Center for Cultural Engagement and the Department of Athletics. 

Some students reported that they wish there was better representation among these presenters. 

“I think the speakers were really interesting and were really well-versed in their discussion, but I wish there were more people of color as speakers,” said freshman Marguerite Collette.

The week concluded with a virtual Mass on Sunday, January 31, led by pastor of St. Teresa of Avila, Monsignor Ray East. St. Teresa of Avila is defined as “a church rooted in rich African American heritage, deep Catholic faith, and the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Other activities that could be completed throughout the week included the on-campus Civil Rights Walking tour, as well as the MLK Social Justice Challenge, due Friday, February 5. Among the prizes were t-shirts and gift cards to Black-owned businesses.

“My hope is that students, through their participation in the Teach-In, were able to realize that they all play a role in this,” said Director of the Center for Cultural Engagement Javier Bustamante. “As small as their contributions can be at times, they have to recognize that it takes one small drop of water to bring a wall crumbling down because that drop is part of the legacy of millions of others that have paved the way for this moment. Dr. King encouraged us to never lose hope, and that is the message we need to take to heart.”

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